Rock 'n' roller's
singular attack on stealth taxes
by Judith Woods
The Daily Telegraph, London, Nov 23, 2002
BRITAIN'S most improbable protest singer is
fiddling with his complicated sound system, so that I can hear his
controversial anti- Gordon Brown anthem.
When Kenney Jones finally hits the play
button the volume is shockingly - painfully - loud. We may be in a polo club
in leafiest Surrey, but this is rock 'n' roll.
As my sternum jolts uncomfortably with every
beat, Jones, former drummer with the Small Faces and The Who, nods along
with a faraway smile of quiet satisfaction.
"Na na na na Mr Brown, you're robbing me
/ You're detached emotionally / Na na na It's plain to see / Mr Brown you're
It's certainly a catchy tune, but it's the
lyrics that are proving to be incendiary. By sticking his head above the
political parapet on the issue of tax, Jones has been both feted and
castigated in equal measure.
Not only has he been vilified as a Right-wing
traitor to the Leftist traditions of rock, but he has stirred up something
of a parliamentary hornets' nest.
For Jones has dared to wade in where the
Tories have been fearing to tread; namely, on the delicate minefield of
stealth taxation. As the parties squabble over the high moral ground on
public services, the 53-year-old father of six has emerged to fight the
corner of the overstretched, overtaxed middle classes. "The Government
isn't listening to the people and I felt it was time to speak up," says
"I just wanted to make the point that
this Government gives with one hand and takes with the other. Every Budget
is the same; it sounds as though Gordon Brown is reducing the burden but, if
you look closer, you discover you're actually worse off."
A stocky man, dressed in scruffy jeans and a
T-shirt, a gold- plated Ebel watch on his wrist, Jones - who owns and runs Hurtwood
Park Polo Club, near Ewhurst - is instantly recognisable from pictures taken
The youthful face appears remarkably
unravaged by showbiz excess, the hair is still cut in a familiar, if
shorter, hedgehoggy mullet.
Billed as "the quiet one" in most
of the bands with which he played, Jones consistently shied away - once
off-stage - from the limelight. His new song was written from the heart, he
insists, not as an attention-seeking political statement.
But this, perhaps, is the very reason for its
potency. The issue of taxation may have slipped down the Opposition agenda
but for voters such as him, being hammered at every turn, it remains a
"I've always voted Conservative, but I'm
not politically minded and I just believe in fairness," he says.
"I didn't set out to write a protest song."
He repeats this phrase so often (six times in
all, plus two "Look, this is just a bloody good song that happens to be
about tax"), I get a sense that Jones is both nonplussed and rather
alarmed by the furore.
It was a report in The Daily Telegraph about
the German pop hit, Der Steuersong (The Tax Song), which satirises
Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's tax policies, that prompted Jones and his band
to publicise their song.
The band, which features Robert Hart, a
former member of Bad Company, Rick Wills, the former Foreigner bassist, and
Gary Grainger, guitarist and songwriter, is as yet unnamed. Mr Brown was
intended for their album, due to be recorded next year, but it clearly cries
out to be released as a single, even though it could well fall foul of BBC
censors for its "definite political overtones".
"I wrote the song during the fuel
protests because every time I fill up at the petrol station I feel like I'm
being ripped off," says Jones.
"People who live in the country are
being penalised for their fuel consumption, but we have no choice: the shops
aren't at the corner, and you have to get your children to school, which is
Jones no longer owns the Flash Harry Ferrari
or the "made-it" Bentley he drove in the 1970s. He negotiates the
winding country lanes in a Range Rover and his wife, Jayne, 43, ferries the
children to both state and independent schools in a Chrysler Voyager.
"I'm not an extravagant man, and I'm not rolling in cash, which might
sound a bit rich when I'm sitting here in my polo club, but it's the
truth," he says.
"I've earned my money with hard work and
rock 'n' roll. But back in those days bands got ripped off by all kinds of
people. It wasn't like today's instant millionaires in pre-fabricated pop
He and his family live in a 14th-century
five-bedroom cottage. The nearby polo club is housed in a renovated
15th-century barn, set in 250 acres.
Regular players include the Prince of Wales,
Princes William and Harry and Jodie Kidd, the model turned polo player.
Jones has set up The Small Faces charitable
trust in aid of children, providing funds for hospital wards and other
"I've seen life from both sides. I grew
up in the East End of London, where my father was a lorry driver and my
mother worked in a glass factory," he says.
"It was a very modest upbringing and the
only thing I was spoiled with was love and affection.
"Then when I was 15 or 16 my band had a
hit record and suddenly I saw how the other half lived."
Right now, Jones's main aim is to impress on
the Government how Middle England lives - groaning beneath a growing tax
It seems likely that his single will be
released early next year, and it will be fascinating to see how it fares.
Jones, meanwhile, is prepared for a further backlash.
"I not sure Gordon Brown will think much
of the song," he says. "He'll probably set the Inland Revenue on
to me. But he can if he wants, I can assure him that all my tax returns are